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In the early 1960s the Pentagon set up a top-secret research project in an old villa in downtown Saigon. The task? To interview captured North Vietnamese soldiers and guerrillas in order to measure the effect of relentless U.S. bombing on their morale. Yet despite a wealth of great data, even the leaders of the study couldn’t agree on what it meant.

Saigon, 1965 is the story of three people who got caught up in that effort: a young Vietnamese woman, a refugee from Nazi Germany, and a brilliant Russian émigré. All saw the same things. All reached different conclusions. The Pentagon effort, run by the Rand Corporation, was one of the most ambitious studies of enemy combatants ever conducted—and no one could agree on what it meant.


“My father-in-law was a government scholar and later government official in South Vietnam during the Vietnam war. After listening to this compelling and well crafted episode of Revisionist History, I knew he too would find this perspective on the war fascinating. So I set about to produce a Vietnamese translation of the episode so he could fully understand all the nuances of the story in his native language. Thankfully I found the extremely capable professional translator Miss Died Ngoc Bui who not only created the written translation, but also went out of her way to create the audio translation below. I hope all Vietnamese speakers, including the elderly Vietnamese diaspora who lived through the events described in the story can listen to this episode and get as much out of it as I did.”

– Ronny Chieng





A disclosure, in the fall of 2015, I was named to the Board of Directors of the RAND Corporation—the subject of this episode. It’s not a paid position (RAND is a non-profit). And I did the bulk of my reporting for this episode before taking the position. But you should know, that when I say that Rand is an incredibly fascinating place, I’m biased. And if you were on the RAND board, I daresay you’d think the same thing.

The Host

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is co-founder of Pushkin Industries and host of the hit podcast Revisionist History. He is a journalist, a speaker, and the author of several New York Times bestsellers including The Tipping…